Tokyo Olympics: Ill-timed TVNZ ad break sparks social media outrage during Games opening ceremony

TVNZ has drawn social media outrage, after taking an ad break at a poignant point of the Tokyo Olympic opening ceremony.

Before the parade of 206 nations into the Olympic Stadium, organisers asked for a moment's silence to respect victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with Israeli athletes and officials killed during the Munich 1972 terrorist attack.

"We, the Olympic community, also remember all the Olympians and members of our community who have so sadly left us," said the stadium announcer. 

"In particular, we remember those who lost their lives during the Olympic Games."

But the NZ free-to-air rightsholder chose that time to pay some bills - and Twitter blew up.

"Well, that's a joke!" says Kelly Harris. "Your placement of an ad just as the one minute of respect those lost was totally embarrassing and awful. WTF!??"

Aaron RJ Power says: "You decided to put an add break during a moment of silence.

"While the rest of world was taking a moment to remember, you decided to promote cereals and EV? Pretty insensitive and out of touch."

The Olympic gesture has been applauded by Israeli Prime Minister Nfatali Bennett and relatives of the Munich victims.

"I welcome this important and historic moment," Bennett tweets. "May their memory be blessed."

"Justice has finally been done for the husbands, fathers and sons who were murdered in Munich," widows Ilana Romano and Ankie Spitzer, who watched the ceremony in the stadium, said in a statement. Their husbands - weightlifter Yossef Romano and fencing coach Andre Spitzer - died in the attack.

"We went through 49 years of struggle and never gave up. [We] can't stop the tears from flowing.

"For this moment we waited."

Before the ceremony began, TVNZ warned Twitterati it would take ad breaks "where appropriate and pick our moments carefully".

Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Hirini and boxer David Nyika led the small NZ contingent into the stadium, with many athletes having not arrived in Tokyo yet or choosing to rest up for competition over the next few days.

Nyika was a late call-up as flagbearer, after rowing legend Hamish Bond had his eights heats rescheduled for Saturday and chose to stay at the Games Village.

Join us for live updates of the Tokyo Olympics